by Judith Kinnard, FAIA
2010-11 ACSA President
Over the last year I have had the opportunity to participate in a number of critical conversations around the theme of change in the profession and in architectural education. At our meetings and in discussions with our collateral organizations, we have explored the dynamic conditions that will inevitably impact our pedagogy, our practices, our organizations and perhaps most significantly in our universities. Our school leaders gathered in Los Angeles last November to engage in debate regarding pedagogical futures. At the ACSA Annual Meeting in Boston we heard papers on cutting edge digital explorations in research and teaching. In Barcelona last week we broadened these discussions to include the voices of our colleagues from over 20 countries in 6 continents.
There are paradoxes as we look ahead. Although we cannot ignore the impacts of digital methods on teaching, learning and research, our schools have largely affirmed the relevance of the design studio as a physical environment where ideas are exchanged and artifacts are crafted. While there are advances in teaching and research methods based on partnerships outside of our schools, with industry, the professions, and community groups, we need to be careful to maintain disciplinary focus and curricular clarity. I believe that the schools and the faculty need to be more open to evolving and responsive curricula, degree programs and research centers, while expanding our commitment to career mentorship and lifelong learning.
The recent study by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce identified the high unemployment rate for architecture majors. The widespread publication of articles relating to this report together with an increased public focus on student debt may have a continuing impact on our schools. Though the number of applicants to architecture schools appears to have shown only a modest decline, we are all aware of the significant reduction in applications professional degree programs in law and business. What does this mean for our schools and for our curricula? I have been struck by the conflicting imperatives that we face to become more fully grounded in the notion of architect as generalist and at the same time more specialized in our teaching. In my view the early years of undergraduate curricula need to recognize and facilitate the multiple career paths that our students will pursue, while the final years of our graduate programs need to involve intense and rigorous explorations of the integrated issues of building design and research.
I think we can all acknowledge that most schools provide minimal support for students as they make the transition to first jobs and eventual careers. For the many students who will not find jobs in architecture or chose to pursue other paths schools offer little guidance or mentorship. The thresholds between education, practice, and career need to be fully designed and supported. Some schools have done significant work in this regard and have used their continued relationship to alumni to provide connections, enhance development efforts and to provide important data regarding the outcome of an education in architecture. Connie Caldwell’s work at Syracuse University is the most impressive in this regard (http://soa.syr.edu/index.php?id=22).
The profession and the schools clearly need to work in collaboration to meet the challenges for today’s recent graduates and emerging professionals. In 1996, Ernest Boyer and Lee Mitgang wrote in Building Community:
The worlds of practice and education depend on each other for their purpose and vitality…. In the end, the academy and the profession also share an obligation to serve the needs of communities, the built environment and society as a whole.”
I would argue that in today’s economy this dual obligation extends to the future of the profession. Recent changes to the Internship Development Program have embraced the concept of school-based programs that can be pursued both for academic credit and IDP hours. This may well reinvent curricula at schools that choose to develop programs that move their graduates closer to the “licensure on graduation” model that has been the norm in international architectural education and in other professions in the US and Canada. We should be appreciative of the NCARB leadership for supporting these initial steps.
As we head into discussions with our collateral organizations relating to the next Accreditation Review Conference (ARC), ACSA has been forceful in our position that expanding the mandates of the accreditation conditions is not the way to allow schools to leverage their individual missions and settings. The academy and profession have experienced major challenges since the last Accreditation Review Conference (ARC) held in July 2008. University endowments have eroded and state support for higher education has been drastically cut. The 2013 ARC must acknowledge the dynamic and constrained environments that both practice and education are facing. Increasingly, schools will need the freedom and flexibility to negotiate the opportunities and challenges associated with these conditions within their specific institutional setting and professional affiliations.
It has been an honor to serve as President of ACSA in this Centennial year. I have benefited enormously from the support of our patient and thoughtful executive director, Michael Monti PhD. I am grateful to the board for their service and support and to the prior leadership of our organization, particularly Daniel Friedman whom I had the opportunity to work with in the year leading up to this one. Donna Robertson’s unique combination of leadership skills and nuanced understanding of the issues facing our member schools will serve us very well in the year to come.